“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrine of devils” (v. 1). Or the words may be rendered, “Now the Spirit speaks distinctly that in the later times some will apostatize from the faith, holding the mind toward deceitful spirits and doctrines from demons.” We live in days of departure and defection from right. Men are prone to the left, to the evil, corrupt and dishonest. This is prominently so in government and politics, where one looks till eyes are sore to find adherence to Christian principle. True this is also in the social sphere which has largely degenerated to a prurient, festering, Canaanite community. Especially is there defection from the right in the area of religion, in the once orthodox churches, in doctrine and in manner of life. This is an ancient evil; it is nothing new. Always there was first a period of spiritual progress, then defection followed. In Seth’s day, men called on the name of the Lord, but then, soon, all flesh corrupted its way and the earth became filled with violence. (Violence is dealing with the left hand, as in the modern sign of the raised left fist.) Then the sons of god, Sethites, began to amalgamate with the daughters of men, with apostate Cainites. There was spiritual progress in Noah’s day when God’s people walked in His covenant and in defiance of the Babel-builders. Then came their complaining wilderness wanderings and entering into Canaan to forsake Jehovah and worship Baal. Finally, Christ came to His own nation. A few followed Him, but the nation at large apostatized to the false anti-Christian church. Paul warned of this apostasy.
I. In Its Departures. This text is one of the many prophecies of apostasy in holy scripture. As to its source, it originates not in man, not in Paul, but in the Holy Spirit. Paul maintained this. So did Peter: “No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:20, 21). So the Spirit prophesies of apostasy to come in later times. He utters the prophesy in verbal, plenary, infallible inspiration. Paul, the writer, claims that what he writes is under such inspiration. So his writings are divinely inspired scriptures (II Pet. 3:15f). “Now” the Spirit speaks through Paul. He had said, “For I know that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29f). The Spirit also speaks these words to His church today and to us.
He speaks expressly, or distinctly, clearly, so that men, though fools, shall not err as to His meaning. He states distinctly that in later times this defection will occur. No date is set as to when this will be. But, as it gets later and later, there will be increasing indicators of a continuing falling away until the falling away (II Thess. 2:3, marg.), as the Dutch Bible has it, Dat eerst de ofval gekomen. These later times were not long in coming, for only about a year later Jude reports them as then present. “There are certain men crept in . . . (already)turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and (now) denying the only Lord.” Apostasy has already sprung up and the apostates presently despise dominion, currently speak evil, are found at the moment feeding themselves without fear, foaming out their own shame. This, says Jude, is all going on now. These wretches are dirt spots, are murmurers, complainers, who are walking after their own lusts, and are not manifesting themselves as having the Spirit.
Some will depart. It begins with some, but increases to many (Matt. 24:12). So it continues, down to the very end, when apostasy is “cured” with no less than its total destruction (II Thess. 2:8; II Thess. 1:8-9). Some will apostatize from the faith, from the whole Christian faith, from the creeds and confessions of the true churches, and from the therein outlined doctrine, discipline, worship, and godly living (I Tim. 6:3). They will (now do) depart from the faith, so that they were once of the true church. But they departed from it, did not continue with it, and so showed they were not of it (I John 2:18-19).
Consequently, we find them giving heed, or holding the mind toward seducing spirits. This is not so much a lust of the flesh as a lust of the mind, an intellectual, spiritual-ethical lust in which they are offering up, abandoning their minds to enticing spirits. They deliberately devote their minds to the influence ofdeceitful spirits. (The same word is found in I John 1:8). Deceitful spirits lead astray from the truth. There are many such spirits in the world. The political world is infested with them; so the military, civic, and religious communities, according to Rev. 16:13. But these deceitful spirits are not the same as the spirits of the occult; they are not demons. According to the Apostle John, they are false prophets (I John 4:1). They lead astray, being wandering planets (Jude 1:13), causing those they lead astray to wander off into oblivion. They are impostors, and both their spheres of operation and their names are well known to us. Beware of false prophets. From such withdraw thyself.
They are also holding the mind toward doctrines of, not devils, but demons. Actually, these are not doctrinesabout demons. The scriptures themselves contain that. But these are doctrines from demons, indicating theirsource. So that these teachings are from a wisdom which is from beneath, which James brands as demoniacal. Demons are behind the occult, the mediums with their gods (the heathen sacrifice to demons, I Cor. 10:20), behind astrology, witchcraft, spiritism, Satanism, palmistry, phrenology, the demonism of Haitian voodoo, of Jamaican obeah and the ridiculous UFO fantasies. (Take note of where the UFO books are located in the stores—in the ‘Occult’ section.) All this low Animism is made respectable under “scientific” studies in “parapsychology,” as it is called, .delving into the psychic, or contact with the dead (the very possibility of which the inspired Job flatly denies, chap. 5:1). All of these ancient, revived dalliances with the devil are evil rejections of divine providence. This latter comforting truth is deemed outmoded. Man can find his own comfort; so he rejects heaven for the dark spirit-world, and goes trash picking in the world’s garbage dumps. Still, superstition is the “in” thing. Superstition and the great heathen religions are inseparable. This is true not only of Hinduism, Romanism, and Theosophy, but also of apostate Protestantism. Next, consider the theme,
II. In Its Utterances. “Speaking lies in hypocrisy.” Or the verbal expressions of apostates are “in hypocrisy of lie-speakers.” These hypocritical liars are the false prophets and teachers of the false church. Their constituency is in the posture of holding the mind toward these deceitful and deceiving spirits. These dupes yield their empty minds as offerings to their empty gods. They do this in connection with hypocrisy. The word ‘hypocrisy’ has the idea in it of wearing a mask. It means ‘to talk down under’ a mask, as does a stage actor. It means to put on an act. These hypocrites aim at palming off their lies on the unwary and deceived. They have so long believed their own lies that they would no longer recognize the truth if it hit them in the face. Lying comes natural to those “having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” Lie-speakers have a burnt-out conscience; it is seared, cauterized, burnt hard. They have not only grieved the Spirit, resisted the Spirit, but have quenched the Spirit, which puts them in an irremedial condition (Prov. 29:1). Their conscience is violently forced, hardened with the hot iron of false doctrine. So they are callous. They shut the kingdom of heaven against men. They themselves go not into the kingdom, nor do they allow others in. Now consider this theme,
III. In Its Super-Pietism. In their hypocrisy they are “forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (v. 3). In v. 1 we have their activity, v. 2 their character, v. 3 their teaching. Negatively, their teaching prohibits marriage; positively, it commands abstinence from “meats,” foods. The reference is not to meats as such, but to abstinence from certain foods and drinks. This is the ascetic “taste not, touch not, handle not!” philosophy. Such heretical teaching crept into the church in monasticism and asceticism. Some may wish to follow the old dispensation’s ban against such foods as oysters, shrimp, lobster, etc., doing so in the interest of what is believed to be the best nutrition. This in itself is tolerable; so also if it is simply a. matter of personal preference. But if done for religious reasons, it becomes untra-pietism, unless one desires to make such practices a matter of his faith, keeping such faith to himself, and does not press it on others, which would be extremism and fanaticism. God created both marriage and foods. To forbid either is against both the creation ordinance and the revealed will of God; The biblical ordinance concerning foods, as found inGen. 1 and Gen. 9, includes divine sanction of both the vegetarian and the meat diet. God created vegetables and meat to be received with thanksgiving. The natural man is unable to so receive them. He is by nature unthankful (II Tim. 3:2). Only believers can do this, those who know the truth. They have come to knowledge of truth (I Tim. 2:4). To know the truth is to have thorough, precise recognition of it. Truth recognized is cherished, relished, loved, stored in the heart. You eat, drink, sleep and breathe the truth as your total way of life. Nothing in your life is merely secular. All of life is the spiritual activity of a prophet, priest, and king. The purpose of God’s once-for-all delivering the faith to the saints, is, negatively, not to depart from it, and, positively, to earnestly contend for it, and. (II Tim. 1:13) hold it fast.